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Glen Macnow: A handy guide to filling out your NCAA bracket – Metro US

Glen Macnow: A handy guide to filling out your NCAA bracket

Glen Macnow NCAA bracket

More than 70 million Americans will enter NCAA bracket pools in the next few days. Chances are you’re among them, whether you’re a hardcore hoop-head or the receptionist who bases picks on mascots and where her friends went to college.

Chances are also good that by the time you finally figure out again where TruTV is on your cable system Thursday, your bracket will be littered with the red X’s of failure. The dream dies early.

It doesn’t have to.

Winning a brackets pool is a combination of luck and analytics. The luck I can’t help you with.  And I’m not here to tell you which specific teams to pick in your pool. But knowing the analytics? Well, here are six handy tips.

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* Bet on some early-round upsets. Don’t go crazy – 1 seeds hold a 135-1 record against 16s. The Virginia loss to UMBC last year was a once-in-a-lifetime stunner. But study the 5 vs. 12 matchups, where there’s been at least one upset in 25 of the last 30 tournaments. And definitely find a few worthy 11 seeds. In the last nine years, the underdogs actually have a winning record in the 6 vs. 11s.

*The fun of the tournament is finding your Cinderella, but don’t expect more than one double-digit seed to make the Sweet 16. Choose one whose season stats show the best combination of steals, 3-pointers and offensive rebounds. That’s a team that, when hot, can upset a better opponent. Make that school your darling and abandon your other longshots after one win. And definitely don’t let sentimentality attach you to those underdogs.

* Number 1 seeds are ranked that way for a reason. It’s no fun to go all chalk, but 14 of the last 20 winners began as one of the four regional top seeds. Just three No. 1 seeds have failed to make the 16 over the past eight years. I won’t tell you to fill out a sheet with all four favorites advancing to the Final Four (that’s an embarrassing bracket to have posted on the office wall), but I wouldn’t bail on more than two of them.

* Picking the champion is most important. This sounds obvious, but so many people focus on the early rounds and don’t have a strategy for selecting the overall winner. If your pool is like most, the title game probably accounts for one-sixth of the total points. My advice here: Avoid picking the chic team, or the one that extremely casual basketball fans are prone to pick (usually Duke). Try to avoid that local sentimental darling that will draw a disproportionate amount of support among your colleagues.

* Figure out which 1 or 2 seed – one you can believe in – may get overlooked by the folks you’re betting against. Make that team your baby. Of course, this strategy didn’t work in Metropolitan Philadelphia in two of the past three years, when nearly every person in every pool backed Villanova for both analytical and sentimental reasons. I played contrarian last year and rode Kansas, another 1 seed. Eventually, I happily cheered against my own financial interests watching Nova beat the Jayhawks in the Final Four.

* The smaller the pool, the better your chance becomes just picking favorites. The larger the pool, the greater the need comes to pick the right upsets. You need to take more risk in any of those mega online pools. So if you really just want to win, stay small. Of course, the bragging rights – and payoffs – are a lot less if you’re just playing with 12 guys on your softball team.

Trust me, all of this is sound strategy. Of course, you could just go ask your 9-year-old to pick based on school colors. I hear that works, too.

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